24 July 2017

Liberia: Several Public Officials Quit Post After Supreme Court Ruling On Code of Conduct

Photo: FrontPage Africa
The court ruled in favor of the Liberty Party of Charles Walker Brumskine.

Monrovia — The latest ruling by the Supreme Court on the Code of Conduct has ignited a wave of resignations from the government by officials wishing to contest the October elections.

FrontPageAfrica was informed that National Elections Commission (NEC) workers assigned at the Samuel K. Doe Sport Complex where the nomination was ongoing remained on duty until 12:00 A.M Saturday morning due to the influx of nominations.

"If the Supreme Court's ruling was going to come earlier than this, it would have crippled the government."

"Our workers had to overstay Friday night due to unprecedented number of forms we received," an NEC worker told FrontPageAfrica.

The Court ruled in the Liberty Party Vs. National Elections Commission case that Mr. Harrison Karnwea though violated the Code of Conduct by not resigning two years prior to the elections as required, he substantially complied because he resigned after the Court declared it law when it was first tested.

This paper gathered that many of the forms were acquired months back, but were not submitted until Friday, just a day after the Supreme Court's ruling which also happened to the deadline for submission.

Most of the resignations are still being kept undercover. In fact, many had resigned [by letter only] two or three months ago, awaiting the outcome of the Liberty Party vs. National Elections Commission case before officially leaving office.

About a week prior to Thursday's ruling, Bong County Superintendent, Selena Mappy-Polson confronted FrontPageAfrica for reporting that she had rescinded her decision to contest after the Supreme Court ruled against her in her case against the Government of Liberia in which she claimed the Code of Conduct violated some of her constitutional rights.

She, however, declined to confirm to this paper at the time whether she was still considering contesting as district representative in the county.

"You know what's going on. Everybody is confused right now and we are all waiting to see the Supreme Court's ruling. I cannot say anything for now, at the right time I will talk," she said.

However, this paper has reliably gathered Mrs. Mappy-Polson tendered in her resignation on the July 6, 2017 but was still carrying out her functions as Superintendent and was still in possession of government utilities assigned to the office.

Gender, Children and Social Protection Minister, Julia Duncan-Cassell, has also resigned. She has, however, not made her resignation public yet. FrontPageAfrica has not been able to verify why these resignations are being kept secret.

An aide close to Min. Duncan-Cassell told FrontPageAfrica, "It is true she has resigned. I heard it, too. But she hasn't made it public yet. I know she resigned on Friday because she was waiting for the final ruling on the Code of Conduct," the aide who asked not be named said.

On January 13 this year, hundreds of women in District 3, Grand Bassa County petitioned Min. Cassell to be their representative at the House of Representatives.

Grand Bassa electoral district 3 seat is currently occupied Gabriel Buchanan Smith, who has served as lawmaker of the district for consecutive terms.

She slowed down on her political activities after the Supreme Court upheld the Code of Conduct in the Selena Mappy-Polson vs. the Government of Liberia case, but the recent ruling seems to have reawakened the desire and intent to contest.

Deputy Minister for Research, Planning and Development, Augustus Zayzay is also leaving the Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf-led government in obedience to the Supreme Court in order to have a space on the ballot paper in October.

He confirmed to FrontPageAfrica over the weekend that his resignation is for the sole purpose of contesting Montserrado County District 12 seat. The seat is currently occupied by Prof. Richmond Anderson.

The Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism is hard hit. Report gathered by FrontPageAfrica reveals that both Minister Lenn Eugene Nagbe and Deputy Minister for Administration, Andrew Tehmeh have both resigned.

Tehmeh began his political journey for the district's highest seat in 2012, promising to provide quality leadership for the people of the district.

Aware of the CoC, political rivals to Tehmeh in the district had been sending caveats to NEC not to register him to avoid running into conflict with the law; however, their caveats have were rendered useless by the Supreme Court last Thursday.

For Nagbe, there is a complaint before the NEC on his alleged violation of Section 5.1 of the Code of Conduct.

Liberty Party filed the complaint

According to Liberty Party, Mr. Nagbe, still in his position as Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism (MICAT) signed the party's nomination listing presented to the NEC for approval.

The Liberty Party noted in its complaint that though Mr. Nagbe acted in accordance with Section 3.5(a) of the National Elections Commission Regulations and Guidelines Relating to Political Parties and Independent Candidates (being the secretary general of the UP), he, however, violated Section 5.1 of the Code of Conduct.

Section 3.5(a) of the National Elections Commission Regulations and Guidelines Relating to Political Parties and Independent Candidates provide that "No later than 90 days before an election, each political party shall submit to the Commission the list of candidates (persons elected at its convention) who will contest on the party's ticket.

"The list shall contain the name, address, age, gender, phone number, occupation, position(s) previously held (if any), elective office sought, and such other qualifications required for the elective office sought as provided by the Constitution and the Elections Law.

"Said submission must be under the signature of the party's national chairman and secretary general."

"Section 5.1 of the Code of Conduct states, "All officials appointed by the President of the Republic of Liberia shall not:

Engage in political activities, canvas for elected offices;

Use of government facilities, equipment or resources in support of partisan or political activities;

Serve on a campaign team of any political party, or the campaign of any independent candidate

According to the LP's complaint, the UP should have known at the time of filing of the Candidates listing with NEC that they were in violation of the Code of Conduct to have allowed Nagbe to sign any document which, according to them, clearly evidenced his participation in the management or political activities of the Unity Party.

"The Defendants knew or should have known that this submission/filing with the NEC of the Unity Party Candidates listing, signed by Co-Defendant Len Eugene Nagbe as Secretary General was unlawful, and against the spirit and intent of Section 5.1, 5.8 and 5.10 of the Code of Conduct Act," the complaint noted.

The opposition party called for the nullification of all documents signed by Nagbe under the legal maxim that what is not legally done well is not done at all.

The Liberty Party further called on the NEC to conduct investigation and hearing pursuant to the Code of Conduct for alleged violation of both the Unity Party and Mr. Nagbe and apply appropriate sanctions including fines and dismissal.

When contacted, Mr. Nagbe said he could not comment on the complaint as neither he nor the party has received or seen any complaint from Liberty Party.

FrontPageAfrica first confronted Min. Nagbe with the news of his resignation last Wednesday, but the Minister denied.

However, sources close to him informed this paper over the weekend that he has finally tendered in his resignation.

All efforts to get Min. Nagbe to confirm the latest information over the weekend proved futile. This paper also understands the Minister of Labor, Neto Z. Lighe who is also the assistant secretary general of the ruling party is also penning his resignation letter. His resignation, FPA was told, is to give him the chance to be actively involved in the political activities as campaign starts on July 31.

Gongloe Disappointed

Disappointed human rights lawyer, Tiawon Gongloe told FPA he had advised at least 10 clients who took their forms to him that they were not qualified because they failed to resign two years as requested by the Code of Conduct.

Cllr. Gongloe: "I have advised at least ten candidates. They did not resign two years ago and when they brought their forms to me, I told them, you are not qualified.

One mayor for example came to me and said they want to run; I announced it publicly and said anyone with interest in running should just resign.

If you resign even one day before your application to the National Elections Commission, according to this opinion of the Supreme Court you are in compliance with the law."

For the foreseeable future, it appears the high court has, in one ruling, reinvented the controversial code, thereby giving a green light for many to contest.

Cllr. Gongloe: "The Supreme Court itself said that desire and intent are not valid arguments when it comes to compliance. So, I was surprised in the end when the courts said once you resign you are in suspended compliance.

So, with that opinion, I don't see anyone, except for those who are still in position and are still employed and all those who the public were speculating that the code of conduct will hold will be eligible to run."

Live and Die By the Rule of Law

At the same time, outspoken prelate, Rev. Korto Brown, has commended the National Elections Commission for upholding the rule of law by rejecting aspirants who violated the law. The ambiguously noted he expected the "other people" to uphold the law, too.

"We applaud NEC for upholding the rule of law, many thought that we couldn't, but let us applaud the NEC they have shown that Liberia is a country of law," he asserted.

He advised electorates not to allow themselves to be used by politicians - noting that many of the politicians' families do not reside in Liberia and would therefore, not be part of any mayhem that politicians may instigate in the country.

"They want to bring in crises when they know that their children are far from this land. We who decide to stay here shouldn't be used by anyone who wants to seek their own personal achievements."

"If they cause problem, they will travel to their families abroad and you and your parents will be here and there would be no justice for you and your parents," Rev. Brown said.

He was speaking during a thanksgiving service held for 12 grade students who had successfully completed their West African Examination Council Examinations.

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